Interview with Peter – Mentors and Sponsors and More Advice!

posted March 11th, 2014 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Peter whether he saw himself as a mentor or sponsor and, if so, how those relationships developed and whether he has mentored/sponsored both men and women. He says: “Yes, yes and yes.  I’m quite passionate about teaching.  I really believe that teaching is one of the highest callings and whatever profession we’re involved in we not only have a duty to teach and mentor the people we work with, we’re the better for it if we do it.  It’s something that I see as extending across a much broader area than simply the juniors we work with in our organization.  It might be younger people in other organizations, in our client organizations; it extends to all the people that we interact with, in a transaction for example.  If you’re leading a transaction and you’ve got accountants and investment bankers and clients and other lawyers and other law firms and so on working on it, do you just, as the leader, as the chair of the meeting or whatever leadership role you play, do you just look at, just to speak in a very granular context, do you just look at the senior people.  It’s like those old stories about in some cultures when you go to a business meeting, the senior person will only look at the senior person on the other side, right?  I’m speaking about something that’s the opposite of that and so being inclusory means being inclusory of the junior people and that obviously applies to both genders and especially where you see…and this is a common situation…where you might see many of the senior people at the meeting being men but there are both male and female juniors at the meeting and you have to be sensitive to how the young women are feeling about the situation, where all the senior people are men.

 

“So to come back to your question about specific mentoring, it’s something I feel very passionate about and it’s not just about mentoring in the law, it’s about how to be a good lawyer which is so much more than learning the law. I believe people who work with me generally feel that I have high standards and I drive them to higher standards all the time and to be the best that they can be and I’ve found that it’s a very exciting thing to see young lawyers blossoming and growing.  We have been particularly blessed here with spectacular young lawyers, students and young lawyers, and now some of those who have worked with me, it’s going on 20 years now that they were students and then grew up to be lawyers and now are partners of mine taking leadership roles, and it’s particularly satisfying to see them progress like that and I can tell you that there are a good number of young women in that category and of course more and more are coming in.

 

“I said something to my wife last night…this example just occurred to me…I was walking out of the elevator yesterday and a young women lawyer who works in my group, she’s in her first year, got into the elevator at the same time and she happened to be doing some research for me and I said to her thanks so much for doing that, that’s great, and the elevator’s going down and I’m starting to think about the chart she’d sent me and I said, you know, I was thinking about this specific issue and I’m wondering about this…I was just sort of musing…and then I got out of the elevator and I said goodnight and she went one way and I went the other.  About two hours later, I’m sitting at home after having dinner with my wife and I pick up my blackberry and there’s an email from this young woman and I said to my wife she really gets it.  She had got a student in that two hours to research…I don’t know if she did it herself or not…but she wrote me the response in such a direct, clear, practical way and the fact that she did it within two hours of our discussion and had exactly the answers that I was looking for…I didn’t even ask her to do it, that was the point.

 

“So, we’ve got wonderful young lawyers.  I would not honestly be able to tell you if there are more good young women lawyers than men or men lawyers than women, but I can tell you that some of the young women, like this one, and I’ve heard similar comments from other partners of mine who’ve worked with her, both senior female and male partners who’ve had a similar reaction.  Where do people get that from, it’s just intuitive and that’s what makes this so enjoyable, being in a firm like this, in a business like this, but mentoring is absolutely at the heart of what I do and what we all should be doing in this profession.”

 

I asked Peter what advice he would give to women in the corporate world, in particular young women. He says: “Go with your passions; it’s advice I’d give to everybody.  I’m very optimistic about the future generally but on this score in particular, it’s a challenging world for young people.  It’s hard for them to find jobs because there’s a lot of economic uncertainty.  On the other hand, if you’ve got talent and a passion for doing something, there’s never been a time when the world has been as open to a woman doing it as it is today.  It may not be saying a whole lot because we’ve still got a long way to go but I would say to a young woman coming in go with your passions, do what you want to do, don’t pay any attention to the expectations of others, to the noise out there.  Different people are going to feel that different things are right for them.  Some people are going to want to start families earlier than others, and that’s just fine.  It will all work out and that’s the funny thing, for all of us.  It’s very hard when you’re 25 or 30 to imagine how you’ll feel when you’re 50 or 55 and look back.  It all happens so quickly. People think you have to do things in a certain order, that you’ve got to make partner by a certain age and I believe that we should ignore all of that.  You should really figure out what you want to do and just go with it not just with your mind but your heart and your soul and if you pour that passion into something more likely than not…and you’ve got to approach it with some degree of common sense and intelligence and practicality…but more often than not you’ll find a way to succeed.  It’s a lot about the passion and you’ll find how to develop the skills and the experience and find the right people to mentor you which is really important, finding the right mentors, the right role models and not being a slave to your fears.  We are all, to some extent, conditioned by our fears and I believe over time when we look back we say if we hadn’t been afraid of this we would have been able to do that and investing the passion at the same time involves the flip side which is jettisoning fear and, again with some degree of intelligence applied to it, going for what you want.

 

I asked Peter whether his advice would be any different for a young man. He says: “No, it’s the same. I believe that there are social expectations, psychological baggage that we all come with to any situation, but I suspect that it’s a bit more complicated for women just because of the history and society and the expectations about starting families and the fact that we’re going through this period of transition and therefore there’s probably more spotlight in some senses on young women.  What are they going to do?  Which path are they going to choose?  Should they choose this path, should they choose that path, so that’s why it’s probably a little bit more important that they find the right mentors and that they don’t get sidetracked by fears and expectations.  It applies to both men and women just perhaps more to women in some senses.”

 

“At the end of the day, every individual makes the world so interesting, every individual is different.  I have a son and a daughter and they’re very different.  They are both extremely wonderful young people and extremely capable in their own ways but totally different and I don’t think their approaches to the world of study or work are defined by their gender; their approach is more defined by their personalities.  However, I’m sure their experiences will be strongly influenced by their gender and as a parent, you want to see your kids be happy and succeed in whatever they want to do for themselves and my message to them is you must do what you want to do.  Don’t worry about expectations and that’s difficult in the pressure cooker society that we live in and we put our kids in, but I believe that’s really important. I believe the world my daughter will experience is going to be very different from the world that I’ve seen over the last 30 years or so and I look forward to seeing how things evolve over the next, hopefully, several decades.

 

What Strikes Me?


Teaching is one of the highest callings

 

Whatever profession you are involved in you not only have a duty to teach and mentor the people you work with, you will be the better for it if you do it

 

The experience of men and women is in part a reflection of the generation which they are part of

 

Go with your passions and do what you want to do

 

Don’t pay any attention to the expectations of others

 

It’s a challenging world for young people today but if you’ve got talent and a passion for doing something, there’s never been a time when the world has been as open to a woman doing it as it is today

 

People think you have to do things in a certain order, for example, that you’ve got to make partner by a certain age and you should just ignore all of that

 

Figure out what you want to do and just go with it not just with your mind but your heart and your soul and if you pour that passion into something more likely than not you’ll find a way to succeed

 

Investing the passion requires jettisoning the fear and with some degree of intelligence applied to it, going for what you want

 

There are social expectations and psychological baggage we all bring to any situation

 

It’s a bit more complicated for young women because of history and societal expectations about starting families and the fact that we’re going through this period of transition

 

Don’t get sidetracked by fears and expectations

 

At the end of the day, every individual makes the world so interesting, every individual is different

 

Your approach to the world may not be impacted by your gender but your experience of the world will be

 

In the end, you must do what you want to do

 

What Strikes You?

 

Please add your comments.

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Write a comment

You need to login to post comments!